Advice to Artists: Planning a stress-free solo show

A Print from our upcoming Ex Libris Exhibition!

We’re in the final stretch to our Ex Libris Exhibition, and gearing up Press Releases and more for National Small Works.  After 26 years, planning shows around here has become pretty systematic.  But different galleries have different rules and requirements.  Also, if you’re showing in an alternative space, you may not have any rules and requirements to go by, which can be just as tough.  Here’s a few tips to get you started on planning a stress-free solo exhibition!

Set up a calendar-This is the absolute most important thing to do.  We’ll get into specific dates below, but as soon as you know you’re having a solo show, write down dates and tasks!  If you keep several calendars–a work calendar, an e-calendar, a personal date-book, write down those important memos in ALL your calendars.  Nothing is worse than having to scramble last-minute (or even after) a deadline.  If you are showing with a gallery, read the agreement carefully.  In the agreement they will probably have set dates, and then it’s just a matter of copying those time frames down.  If not, make sure you have planned for the big three: Documenting your work digitally, PR and Postcards, and framing or other display preparation.  Now onto our suggested timeline!

Documenting your work:  This should be done well before the show.  If you’re creating work down to the wire, document it as you go. Even if you don’t have the whole show done until two months before-hand, you will at least have some images to put on your website, the gallery’s website, and to use for PR.  I’d say have your work at least partially documented a MINIMUM 4 months in advance. You can get some tips on documenting your work in one of our Printmaking 101 posts, Presenting your Prints.

PR–A press release should go out about a month before your show.  If you are able to send one sooner, great!  In order to create a good press packet, you should have an up-to-date resume, show/artist statement, and some press images.  To give yourself time to promote your show, we suggest having all these things ready a week before your scheduled press release date, or one month and one week before your show.  It is also important to find out what the gallery is responsible for and what you are responsible for.  Often the gallery handles most of the press, but it’s always good to check.  In addition to traditional press releases, post your exhibition on any relevant online calendars (here, we post at the Washington Post Going Out Guide, Pinkline Project, and Creative MoCo’s Do&Go calendar, amongst others) at this time.

Postcards–These are optional.  We at WPG still send out postcards because our clients have expressed gratitude and interest for getting something in the mail.  It’s also nice to have them on-hand for one-on-one promotion.  Say you see an old friend, or meet someone interesting in the metro, or want to share your achievements with your co-workers.  Postcards are a great way to reinforce those connections and invite these people to your show.  These should go out no later than two weeks before your show, and we suggest having them a month before your show.  You can order them online for almost immediate turn-around (WPG usually orders from Printplace), but if you want to avoid expedition fees, these postcards should be ordered two months before the show.

Framing-Don’t forget, after you make your work, you have to get it on the walls somehow!  Canvases often don’t have to be framed, you can just put hanging wire on the back and you’re good to go!  2D work, though, usually needs to be framed.  Be sure and give yourself ample time to do this!  Unfortunately, we don’t have a set calendar date for you.  But you should make one for yourself based on how much work needs to be framed and how time-consuming your framing is.  We can tell you, however, that it should be all framed up two weeks before the show, giving you time to concentrate on other little details–like labels, reception food, and just enjoying the feeling of a job well done!


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